Alone in Berlin (film)
|Alone in Berlin|
French release poster
|Directed by||Vincent Pérez|
Vincent Pérez |
Achim von Borries
Bettine von Borries
Every Man Dies Alone |
by Hans Fallada
Emma Thompson |
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||François Gédigier|
Alone in Berlin is a 2016 war drama film directed by Vincent Pérez and written by Pérez and Achim von Borries, based on the 1947 fictionalized novel Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. The novel's characters Otto and Anna Quangel are based on the real lives of Otto and Elise Hampel. When their son dies in France, the couple start writing postcards to urge people to protest against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. The film stars Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, and Daniel Brühl. Principal photography began on 27 March 2015 in Berlin. It was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.
In 1940, a working-class couple in World War II-era Berlin, Otto and Anna Quangel, decide to resist Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, after receiving the news of the death of their only son. An additional impetus for their growing resistance to the regime is the fate of an old Jewish woman living in their building. Though the official deportation of Jews to death camps had not yet started, Jews have no recourse to any legal protection. Ruthless Nazis — and "non-ideological" common criminals — use the opportunity to loot the old woman's apartment with impunity. Despite the efforts of the Quangels and other kind neighbors to help her, the persecution ends with the old woman jumping to her death from a high floor window.
Impelled by all this, the couple starts writing postcards to urge people to stand against Hitler and the Nazis and protest against them, and furtively placing the cards in public places - a capital crime. Their first card reads: "Mothers, Hitler Will Kill Your Son Too". At first, Otto wants to do it all by himself, warning Anna, "They hang women, too!" She, however, insists on taking part in this dangerous activity. While in the beginning of the film the couple's marriage seems to have dried up, being unable to console each other for the loss of their son, their shared risk and commitment brings them back closer, in effect falling in love with each other all over again.
Escherich is the police inspector charged with finding the source of the postcards. He is a professional police detective, acting out of professional pride rather than Nazi ideology. During three years of painstakingly gathering clues about the "Hobgoblin" (as he calls the mysterious writer of the postcards) he develops an increasing respect for this elusive unknown opponent. With the lack of progress in his investigation, Escherich is beaten up by the obviously impatient S.S. senior officer, and is further forced thereby, to execute extrajudicially, a man whom he is certain has no connection with these subversive postcards.
Finally, Otto Quangel is arrested due to the accidental fall of postcards out of his pocket, while at work. He remains, though, stoic about the certain death sentence awaiting him, and only tries in vain to take all the blame on himself and save Anna. After the couple has been executed, Escherich is alone in his office. He gathers up all of the couple's hundreds of subversive postcards, scatters them out of the open window of the police headquarters, and shoots himself. The film ends with the image of the postcards swirling in the wind, falling down on the Berlin streets and picked up by passersby — giving the film's protagonists a posthumous moral victory.
- Emma Thompson as Anna Quangel
- Brendan Gleeson as Otto Quangel
- Daniel Brühl as Escherich
- Mikael Persbrandt as SS Officer Prall
- Katharina Schüttler as Claire Gehrich
- Louis Hofmann as Hans Quangel
- Godehard Giese as Colonel Krüger
- Jacob Matschenz as Dietrich Necker
- Lars Rudolph as Enno Kluge
Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone was published posthumously in German in 1947 and was praised by Primo Levi as "the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis". It was previously adapted as Alfred Vohrer's Everyone Dies Alone in 1975, along with West and East German made-for-television dramas in 1962 and 1970. Marco Pacchioni and Vincent Pérez bought the rights to the novel in 2007. Upon publication of its English translation in 2009, it became a "surprise bestseller" in both the US and UK.
On 14 May 2014, it was announced that Pérez would direct the film based on an adaptation he cowrote with Achim von Borries. Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance, and Daniel Brühl were named for the principal roles. It was produced by X-Filme's Stefan Arndt and Uwe Schott (German rights), Master Movies' Marco Pacchioni (French rights) and Filmwave's Christian Grass and Paul Trijbits, and James Schamus.
On 26 March 2015, Rylance was replaced by Brendan Gleeson. Other crew members included cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos, and editor François Gédigier. Alison Thompson handled most foreign sales for the film through her Sunray Films, although Pathé will release it in French-speaking areas.
The film adaptation Alone in Berlin was first screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2016. The film starred Emma Thompson as Anna Quangel, Brendan Gleeson as Otto Quangel, and Daniel Brühl as Escherich. The film received a score of 52 on the critical aggregator website Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
In Irish Times, Tara Brady sums up viewer response: "Despite a terrific triumvirate of performances from Gleeson, Thompson, and Brühl, and soft lensing from cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, Alone in Berlin is hampered by stodgy pacing, budgetary constraints, and drab interiors. Against this, the film offers a fascinating and timely blueprint for political dissent, a methodology that connects with pamphleteering, graffiti, and memes." In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw reacted positively, "More than once, 'Alone in Berlin' reminded me of Fritz Lang's M."
- Everyone Dies Alone (1962 West German film; Jeder stirbt für sich allein)
- Jeder stirbt für sich allein (1970 East German miniseries)
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- Brady, Tara (June 30, 2017). "Review: 'Alone in Berlin': Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson offer a timely blueprint for dissent". Irish Times. Retrieved December 24, 2017.